90% of NHS Trusts Still Operate On Windows XP
21st December 2016
IT systems are important to any organisation, they need to be constantly maintained and kept up-to-date for data security and to handle the progressively more demanding software. Windows 7 currently holds 47% of the desktop operating system market as it is the preferred OS amongst businesses. However, a new survey has found that 90 per cent of NHS Trusts still uses Windows XP which has raised questions about the security of sensitive medical information.
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Citrix issued Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to 63 NHS trusts to which 43 responded. Out of the respondents around half (24) said they were unsure when they would migrate to newer systems.
Windows XP was launched in 2001 and only two years ago Microsoft stopped supporting the OS with patches and security fixes. This has left the operating system vulnerable to modern cyber-attacks with vulnerabilities in the software waiting to be exploited. It presents a worrying trend that even in December 2016, Windows XP still holds an 8.63% share of the desktop OS market. In correlation, one of the biggest reasons for data breaches is old and unprotected operating systems.
According to Information Commissioners Office, the UK health sector suffers the most data breaches compared to other industry sectors. “The health sector once again accounted for the most data security incidents. This is due to incident reporting being mandatory, the size of the health sector and the sensitivity of the data processed,” the report claims.
Old operating systems such as Windows XP are likely to be used in conjunction with old hardware. It is vital for productivity that organisations keep their IT systems up-to-date as the optimal lifetime for a desktop computer is roughly 3 years. “Whilst many authorities now only use a small number of devices that run Windows XP, the transition to a newer operating system needs to happen as a matter of urgency,” said Jon Cook, Director of Sales in the UK & Ireland at Citrix. Not only can out-dated systems be slow but they can also be unsecured especially when, for example, Windows stops supporting their older operating systems leaving them vulnerable to future data breaches.
However, the public sector is forever under pressure, being asked to do more with less and it is evident that not enough is being done to secure data in NHS trusts.
Linton Ward, Managing Director at IQ Public Sector commented: “With increasing pressure for Trusts to reduce spend and cut costs across all services, the budgets invariably will not stretch to be able to implement the latest technology to ensure the safety of information and patient data when front line services are already at breaking point.”